Northampton Press

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another view

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

The power and right of telling the truth

When I was a young child, I was sexually assaulted by a family member.

When I was a young teenager, I was sexually assaulted and harassed by a classmate.

And when I was a young adult, I encountered street harassment more times than I can count on one hand.

So when the #metoo movement started to catch fire on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, I joined in and reposted the hashtag and message, too.

Tarana Burke, the founder of #metoo, started the campaign in 2007 “to let young women of color who survive sexual assault know that they are not alone,” according to an Oct. 17, 2017, CBS News article. Today, the hashtag has become the start of a groundbreaking and much-needed awakening since the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein came to light. It was October 2017 that actress Alyssa Milano helped spur this simple hashtag started several years ago into a fury of women and men speaking their truths of the realities of sexual misconduct, particularly in the movie industry.

According to the Huffington Post article “30 alarming statistics that show the reality of sexual violence in America,” dated April 5, 2017, “Every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. That means every single day more than 570 people experience sexual violence in this country.”

Although the “rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993 to 1.6 per 1,000 in 2015,” as RAINN.org states in one of its statistics, more awareness, activism and steps forward have yet to be made. The time is up on the remaining percent.

Timesupnow.org, a campaign that was started this year, says, “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.”

On the site, you can read facts and statistics of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, read the group’s mission, donate to the legal defense fund and find out what you can do to combat sexual assault and harassment.

One of the ways celebrities recently brought attention to the problem of sexual assault and harassment was during the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards Jan. 7 when many women and men wore black.

Also during the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award and used the platform to speak on the topic. Immediately following her speech, social media and other news outlets commented on her profound words, two of which stuck in my mind — the press and truth.

In her speech, she said, “ ... we all know that the press is under siege these days. But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies.

“I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this — what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I was especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.

“ ... For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.

“ ... I just hope that Recy Taylor (an African-American woman who was raped by six white men in 1944) died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years and even now tormented, goes marching on.”

Being an editorial assistant for three local newspapers, one could easily guess why the press made an impression. As for truth, I agree with Winfrey when she said it is the “most powerful tool we all have.”

When sexual assault or harassment occurs, something is taken away from that woman or man. But when she or he tells the truth, a sense of power and strength is gained back.

In her Jan. 4 editor’s view “My New Year’s wish for 2018” on the topic of sexual misconduct allegations, my colleague Deb Palmieri said, “Why didn’t [the women] just turn around, tell the man touching them to knock it off, slap him across the face or just run away screaming if they could?”

The problem with only telling a man to stop his sexual advances is that there are basically no consequences for him. To file a complaint with human resources, to file a complaint with the local police department, to tell your truth — that is where significant results can occur.

When are we going to tell our sons not to harass, assault or rape instead of teaching our daughters ways to not get harassed, assaulted or raped? I have a 10-month-old son. As he gets older, my husband and I will surely be teaching and demanding respect, consent, appropriateness and equality — qualities I think parents wish for their children, but some don’t teach enough or correctly.

In her piece, Palmieri also said, “Careers, lives and reputations were destroyed in the 1950s as they were this past year because, in many cases, guilty until proven innocent was the standard by which many of these men were judged.”

This is not a courtroom. There is no judge; there is no jury. Sexual assault and harassment are everyday occurrences — in the military, on college campuses, on a movie set, in an alley, at an office, etc. The human resources department may conduct its inquiry, but there is often never a trial.

I ask my colleague — What about the lives of the women who endured the sexual assault or harassment? Have a part of their lives not been destroyed as well?

This is just one of the reasons why coming forth about sexual misconduct is so hard to do — because many times the allegations are not taken seriously or believed at all.

Telling the truth about something that happened last month, three years ago, 10 years ago or 20 years ago is never wrong — and must always be believed. Telling your truth can give power to other women. Speaking your truth will signify that sexual assault and harassment is not OK and never will be. Speaking your truth means enough is enough.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you or let you feel ashamed when you speak your truth — no matter when the misconduct occurred or how it happened.

Time is up for those who think and want their actions to remain behind closed doors.

Stacey Koch

editorial assistant

Catasauqua Press

Northampton Press

Whitehall-Coplay Press